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Daily View: World Service cuts

Clare Spencer | 12:01 UK time, Thursday, 27 January 2011

BBC's Bush House

Commentators discuss the cuts at the BBC World Service.

The director of global news Peter Horrocks says in the BBC's editors' blog that quality will be maintained despite the cuts:

"In all the changes announced today, the aim has been to protect the WS, its quality and reputation and, where possible, our footprint. "Our choices are based on the needs of our audiences and the limited resources that we now have available."

The Times editorial suggests the cuts may have an adverse effect on diplomacy:

"Having now to find savings of £46 million a year may hurt not only the World Service's audience of 180 million listeners, but also Britain. As a tool of soft power, few marry softness with such power. It received £268 million last year. Pound for pound, it is one of Britain's punchiest brands."

Labour MP Paul Flynn echoes this sentiment in his blog, calling the cuts "mean and stupid":

"These cuts are cheese paring by politicians who cheerfully spend £4 billion a year on the futile Afghan war and £100s of millions on palatial embassies including a generous flow of champagne at their receptions. The World Service greatly serves our mission to spread our principles and values throughout the world."

The Independent editorial argues that the UK may now struggle to be noticed on the world stage:

"The Government claims that no public service can be exempt from the impending spending cuts. And there are undoubtedly inefficiencies in Bush House, the World Service headquarters in London. But the proposed cuts are too severe.
"The World Service helps to nourish democracy and political accountability across the world. Moreover, it produces much high-quality, impartial, and authoritative journalism. It exports British 'soft power' and remains an island of resistance to the global proliferation of celebrity news."

The director general of the BBC Mark Thompson says in the Telegraph that the World Service can survive these cuts:

"Supporters of the international role of the BBC should not despair. Our global TV and online presence is growing, and in many parts of the world the BBC is a more influential and widely heard voice today than at any point in our history. Across the globe, the audiences which will be lost to the BBC because of today's announcements may be made up by new TV and web audiences."

Update 1630: Melanie McDonagh in the Evening Standard says that cuts to some of the language services are "not a catastrophe":

"Granted, in some parts of the world, the World Service lives up to its own billing as a cherished purveyor of disinterested news: in Sri Lanka or Burma, say, it probably really does provide a valuable service and bolsters Britain's so-called 'soft power'.
"But in other parts, it's not actually needed. Government in the Balkans is scarily corrupt but it's not oppressive in a Burmese sense."

Links in full

Peter Horocks | BBC | Painful day for BBC World Service
Times | This is London
Paul Flynn | Read my day
Independent | A hard knock to soft power
Mark Thompson | Telegraph | The World Service can survive these cuts
Melanie McDonagh | Evening Standard | Life can carry on without the BBC World Service


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